Meta’s Verse: Interview with Matt “Positron” Miller
A heroes work is never done. This week marked the launch of City of Heroes Issue 22, Death Incarnate. With all the features and changes that come with a new issue, and all the earth shaking changes from the death of Statesman, will Positron and the Freedom Phalanx be up to these new challenges? I sat down with the man behind the mask to find out the answer to this question and many more.
OnRPG: Issue 22 has been in beta a long time now. Has this brought about new difficulties with keeping things a mystery until it goes live?
Positron: You may be shocked, but surprisingly few players actually participate or pay attention to betas. Even with the amount of time Issue 22 has been in testing, we’re pretty sure that most of our community still has a lot of surprises in store for them. We like long betas because not only does it allow us a good amount of time to squash bugs, but we also get some time to act on feedback about the various features that our players give us.
OnRPG: With 56 zones spread out across Paragon City, the Rogue Isles and Praetoria, why was Dark Astoria picked as the zone to get revamped for incarnates?
Positron: It was a very underutilized zone that was much beloved by our veteran players. It had an air of mythology about it, and really fit the theme of what kind of threats Incarnates will be facing on Primal Earth, since up to this point the Incarnate powers and trials have been entirely Praetorian focused.
OnRPG: Adamastor is quite tall, how did he manage to get past all those new people in Dark Astoria and get into Talos?
Positron: He must have purchased the new Panther Stealth transformation power and used that to sneak into Talos. Seriously though, we know a lot of players would be up-in-arms if that giant monster (and the badge associated with him) was now relegated to level 50 content, so we came up with the idea of being able to summon him on command just outside the zone so he remains more level appropriate to his original incarnation.
OnRPG: With Dark Astoria getting love now, and Atlas and Mercy getting their facelifts with Freedom, what other revamps or tech like Phasing have you planned to breathe more life into the city of Paragon itself?
Positron: We plans to redo a couple more Paragon City zones, but we first need to “finish the fight” in Praetoria. Phasing is a tech we love, but we need to use sparingly because while it’s excellent tech to tell stories with, it’s actually pretty terrible in promoting the social aspect that MMO’s thrive on.
OnRPG: Diabolique is a Praetorian, what is she doing in Dark Astoria? What does she think of the budding relationship between her primal, Numina and Positron? To that end, what do you think of the relationship?
Positron: We’re still telling the story of Praetoria until Emperor Cole, aka Tyrant, is defeated. So even in a Primal zone like Dark Astoria there is still going to be some Praetorian influence in the story. She has plans that involve Mot, the god worshipped by the Banished Pantheon, and the Incarnate trial revolves around that plan and how you stop it. The end of that trial is actually a huge realization of how you can eventually take down Tyrant.
As for Numina and Positron, that started out as a piece of web-fiction I wrote when we had plans to introduce a new armor model for Positron (plans which we have since abandoned). Many of the team liked the idea of the pairing that they started slipping hints of it into content in the game, and then I wrote more of it into another web piece for the 7th Anniversary event that did see publication, and it’s now part of the official story in-game.
OnRPG: Being in charge of new systems and with the zone revamps and new trials that each issue brings, how challenging do you find creating new challenges for the players?
Positron: Making challenges is easy, making challenges that don’t infuriate our players? That’s the trick. We want players to go “yeah! We beat that!” but we don’t want that experience to come at the expense of hours and hours of frustrating failures because of some random element that was beyond their control. Everything we do we try to put a counter into the hands of the players. The Keyes Island Incarnate Trial is a great example of this; there are several mechanics that are meant to be difficult and they can be insurmountable if you ignore them, but none of them are based on pure randomness.
OnRPG: The cat is out of the bag about the cats, wolves, hawks, bees and dire wolves. Will we get to embrace our feral side during issue 22?
Positron: Beast Mastery is a power set that will be released soon after Issue 22 launches. This is a Mastermind set that greatly utilizes our “four legged rig” that we developed alongside of Freedom. As you mentioned there are wolves, lions, and dire wolves as your summonable pets, as well as other fauna used in many of the attacks. It’s something we’ve wanted to do ever since Mastermind was conceived as an Archetype, and I am happy we finally got to see it done.
OnRPG: Darkness in City of Heroes has always been about skulls and tentacles. Why has Darkness Control gone away from that look to the new sleek look? Are there any plans to make customizations for either Darkness Control or the older dark sets to give them a more unified look?
Positron: We really wanted to update and give Darkness Control a unique look, to make it more special. We do not have any plans to update the older sets, but we’re always listening to feedback.
OnRPG: How many martial arts movies did you and the animators get to watch in the name of research for Staff Fighting?
Positron: Tons, along with many YouTube videos of authentic staff maneuvers from various martial arts. We took many of those and translated them into the game. I did want some moves based on “Star Wars kid” but was overruled (and rightly so).
OnRPG: The changes to Stalkers and Gravity control seem to have come out of nowhere. What inspired these changes to be made?
Positron: A combination of Community feedback and People championing those changes in the office, generally. I know that the players have long had issues with these two items, Stalkers vs. Scrappers/Brutes and Gravity Control. Some people in the office made some great proposals on what can be done to better these, but even then it wasn’t overnight. I think the Stalker changes had to wait several months because we just didn’t have the bandwidth to do the changes needed AND launch Freedom with all it came with.
OnRPG: Through doing tip missions we find out that Frostfire has started the rise from being a villain. Will there be more story advancement like this in the future?
Positron: We love playing with existing characters in new and exciting ways. We are always combating the problem of “game time vs. character time”. We try our best to make sure that a character levelling up through the game gets to see a constant progression of stories and characters, but sometimes certain things are so significant and universal that it transcends this. Things like the “death of Statesman” happened across the entire game.
OnRPG: There are several MMOs with a feature similar to the team up teleporter that offer extra incentives for using the feature. Will we see anything like that in City of Heroes?
Positron: I think those incentives come because the system is not being used (or used in a way that is what the designers want). For us we added the Warmth of Prometheus buff for doing Incarnate Trails with a random group, to compensate for the lack of coordination your League might have.
OnRPG: Will player efforts in the Drowning in Blood trial be reflected in the Bloody Bay zone? Do you have any hopes that it will make Bloody Bay more popular?
Positron: We did the story of Drowning in Blood because there was the unanswered question of “why are these Shivans different than the ones we know from Bloody Bay?” Bloody Bay will remain as it is to give some grounding for the story of Drowning in Blood to make sense.
OnRPG: The player summit is coming up and with it are plans to hear ideas from the players about zone revamps and costumes. If you could pick a zone you’d like to revamp which would it be? And if you could design any costume set what would you like to see in the game?
Positron: If I were to revamp any zone I’d probably do Kings Row. Right now the level progression once you get out of Atlas Park is a bit too jarring for my taste, as Kings Row has dramatically older content than the new Atlas Park shows off.
If I were to get any costume set it would be a Japanese anime-style mecha suit, that sort of angled, venty, armor that was big in the 1980’s and 90’s.
OnRPG: At the last player summit you got a lovely haircut done by a player. Have you been growing out your hair for round two?
Positron: If you remember, I was supposed to cut HIS hair, but he happened not to have any. We came up with the idea of him cutting mine as a contingency. Fortunately we don’t have any insane contests like that for the next player summit (but we still have the FlowBee here in the office).
OnRPG: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say about Issue 22 that you just can’t keep contained anymore?
The issue itself is pretty well summarized (as well as having been on beta for a while), but I do know about an upcoming item on the Paragon Market that will summon a flying transport to take you and your assembled team straight to your mission door that we call the “Team Transporter”.
OnRPG: I’m looking forward to playing with this new issue and all the new features we’re going to be expecting in the future. A big thank you to Matt “Positron” Miller for taking the time to chat with me. And an even bigger thank you to the entire dev team for making Issue 22. I’d also like to congratulate Melissa “War Witch” Bianco on being promoted to Lead Producer.
Don’t forget Double XP weekend is coming up March 16th to 19th!
The Spring Player Summit is coming up on April 28th. Tickets are on sale already so get them while you can!
And last but not least the Weekly Strike Target is: Terra Volta (44-50) and Tree of Thorns (44-50).
I hope you all enjoyed the interview and come back again next week when I sit down with the one and only Samuraiko to talk all things video.